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February 8, 2023

New research presented by UNC-Chapel Hill neuroscientists finds that young adolescents Check social media habitually Shows distinct neurodevelopmental trajectories within the brain.

Their sensitivity to social rewards and punishments from their peers increased over time compared with those engaging in moderate or low censorship behaviors.

The three-year study of 169 sixth- and seventh-graders from three public high schools in rural North Carolina was published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics.

The authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of 12- to 15-year-old recruits.

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In this photo illustration, the Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone.
(Photo illustration by Thiago Prudencio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Participants reported how often they checked Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat just once at the start of the study and were divided into groups based on how often they checked those messages.

Their responses ranged from less than once a day to more than 20.

Subjects underwent whole brain scans because they play computer game Offer rewards and punishments in the form of smiling or frowning companions.

Around the age of 12, during the critical developmental period noted by the authors, habitual users already exhibit a low sensitivity to social expectations.

“The results of this cohort study suggest that social media-checking behavior in early adolescence may be associated with changes in the brain’s sensitivity to social rewards and punishments. Further studies of the long-term associations between social media use, adolescent neurodevelopment, and psychological regulation are needed to understand The impact of ubiquitous influence on the development of today’s adolescents,” the study said.

In this photo illustration, the logos of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are displayed on a smartphone screen on March 14, 2022 in Glastonbury, England.

In this photo illustration, the logos of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are displayed on a smartphone screen on March 14, 2022 in Glastonbury, England.
(Matt Cuddy/Getty Images)

However, the study has some limitations. Since there were already differences in neural trajectories between participants with habitual and non-habitual checking behaviors at the beginning of the study, it was difficult to determine whether social media use prior to data collection caused these different neural trajectories, or a prior variation in neural activation. Whether there are differences that put some young people at risk for more habitual checking behaviour.

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“We can’t claim that social media is changing the brain,” Eva Telzer, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UNC-Chapel Hill and one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times.

Istanbul, Turkey, February 24, 2020 In this photo illustration, a mobile phone screen displays the Snapchat logo in front of a keyboard.

Istanbul, Turkey, February 24, 2020 In this photo illustration, a mobile phone screen displays the Snapchat logo in front of a keyboard.
(Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

However, she explained, “Adolescents who habitually check social media show these rather dramatic changes in the way their brains respond, which could have long-lasting effects into adulthood, laying the groundwork for brain development over time.” Base”

This includes being overly sensitive to peer feedback.

The Times notes that the findings don’t capture the magnitude of the brain changes — only their trajectory — and the authors say it’s unclear whether the changes are beneficial or harmful.

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“This is the new normal,” Telzer added. “It’s important to understand how this new digital world affects teens. It could be related to changes in the brain, but that could be good or bad. We don’t necessarily know the long-term effects yet.”



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